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N Korea seeks to build up attack capability

SEOUL (AP) – North Korea said yesterday leader Kim Jong-Un has vowed to develop more powerful means of attack, days after the country’s first intercontinental ballistic missile launch (ICBM) in more than four years.

The statement suggests North Korea might perform additional launches or even test a nuclear device soon as it pushes to modernise its arsenal and increase pressure on the Biden administration while nuclear diplomacy remains stalled.

Last Thursday, the North performed its 12th round of weapons tests this year, launching the newly developed, long-range Hwasong-17, which analysts said was designed to reach anywhere in the United States (US) mainland.

During a photo session with scientists and others involved in the Hwasong-17 test, Kim expressed a resolve to build up the country’s attack capability to cope with threats, according to the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).

“Only when one is equipped with the formidable striking capabilities, overwhelming military power that cannot be stopped by anyone, one can prevent a war, guarantee the security of the country and contain and put under control all threats and blackmails by the imperialists,” KCNA quoted Kim as saying.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un walks around an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) on the launcher. PHOTO: AP

Kim said North Korea will develop more “powerful strike means” and also expressed his conviction and expectation that his country will “more vigorously perfect the nuclear war deterrence of the country”, KCNA said.

North Korea said the Hwasong-17 flew to a maximum altitude of 6,248 kilometres and travelled 1,090 kilometres during a 67-minute flight before landing in waters between the Korean Peninsula and Japan.

Outside experts said if the missile is fired on a standard trajectory, flatter than the steep test angle, it could fly as far as 15,000 kilometres, enough to reach anywhere in the US mainland and beyond.

Believed to be about 25 metres long, the Hwasong-17 is the North’s longest-range weapon and, by some estimates, the world’s biggest road-mobile ballistic missile system. Its size suggests the missile is meant to carry multiple nuclear warheads, given the North already has single-warhead ICBMs that could hit most of the US.

US-led diplomacy aimed at convincing North Korea to denuclearise in return for economic and political benefits largely has stalled since 2019.